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Posted: 24 May 2007

50% of Irish consumers willing to change shopping destination for improved farm animal welfare, study shows

There is a growing interest among Irish consumers in the protection and welfare of farm animals. According to a new study published by the European Commission, 72% of Irish consumers report the protection of the welfare of farm animals as important to them. And 57% say they would like to be more informed about the conditions under which animals are farmed in Ireland.

“Irish consumers are most likely to buy animal welfare friendly farm produce because they regard them as healthier, of higher quality and better tasting” says Dr Alison Hanlon, UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine who presented a paper on the report at an Animal Welfare Seminar in UCD on 17 May 2007.

“The Special Eurobarometer shows that 50% of Irish consumers would be willing to change their usual place of shopping in order to buy more animal welfare friendly food products,” Dr Hanlon explains. “However, one third of consumers report difficulties finding information on products sourced from animal welfare friendly production systems.”

More than half of the Irish consumers surveyed state that television is their preferred source of information on the topic. 36% say they would also use their daily newspaper, and 26% also report radio as a useful source of information. 21% note that they would use the internet as a source of information on the welfare of farm animals. Only 13% report that they would not be interested in sourcing such information.

“The Internet was selected as the second most important source of information across Europe,” says Dr Hanlon. “And this trend is likely to become increasingly important in Ireland, but some of the main stakeholders are falling short and currently provide little or no information about farm animal welfare on their websites.”

58% of Irish respondents say they believe that the welfare-protection of farm animals in Ireland needs improvement, while 18% say it doesn’t, and the remainder are unsure. 62% of Irish consumers surveyed also feel that the welfare-protection of farmed animals in Ireland has improved over the past decade, and only 2% consider that it has deteriorated over the same period.

According to the report, 51% of Irish consumers consider that farmers are the best placed to ensure that animal food products are produced in an animal friendly way. And 68% believe that financial compensation should be made available to farmers for any higher production costs associated with more welfare-friendly conditions. 34% of people also think that the government can best ensure that food products have been produced in an animal friendly way.

The average European response indicated that the veterinary profession and animal protection societies should also play key roles in ensuring the welfare of farm animals.

Food ethics is becoming an increasingly important issue. Importing animal products from non-European countries generates much debate with animal welfare representing one of the ethical considerations. 88% of Irish consumers believe that imported foods from outside the EU should be subject to the same conditions of animal welfare and protection that apply within the EU.

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